Tuesday 9/18/18 @ 1PM: After waking up prematurely at 8AM to pouring rain, I made breakfast (an egg white omelette with sausage, broccoli and of course my daily dose of Tabasco) and left the house to catch a bus to Philly after reading for a little while.
TODAY IS THE DAY. My first interview for medical school! I gathered everything I needed on Sunday afternoon in case I needed to make a last-minute run to the store on Monday, double checked my belongings, and packed away everything except for my phone charger which I needed to charge until the morning. Guess what I forgot to bring in my duffel bag today? My phone charger! Oops. Mental note: set a phone reminder in the morning to pack charger for trips.
Luckily my interviewer is gracious and has an extra she is willing to lend me.
Now I’m on the bus and it will be about a 3.5-4 hour ride, but I’m not complaining. Got a great seat with a table, and since I booked my tickets super early with Megabus, I only paid $12 for the roundtrip tickets. What a steal. Also managed to time my trip perfectly to avoid getting drenched in the rain, so the day is off to a good start. During the bus ride I’m just going to read a little (currently reading Making of Asian America and A Nation in Pain) and then look over my AMCAS and interview prep printouts a few times to keep things fresh in my mind. Once I get to Philly, I’ll visit Reading Terminal and try some of the food friends have been raving about. Since I recently got ClassPass and they offer classes in Philly, I’ll probably try out a fitness class afterwards to get my blood flowing after the long bus ride and use their showers heh. Definitely need to sleep early tonight though so I can wake up in the morning for the interview.
I’m really excited for this first interview. It’s at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Jefferson University, and everything that I’ve read and heard thus far have made it sound amazing. For one, JeffHOPE is one of the largest student-run clinic organizations in the US and the Center of Urban Health has a lot of community initiatives and student programs in addition to JeffHOPE, which really shows their commitment to service. I’ve also heard great things about the student body and general atmosphere of campus (friendliness, Jeffersonian school pride) and Jefferson is unique in that it is one of the rare schools that has close connections with my undergrad alma mater, which I also need to give back to at some point as gratitude for the 4 years of debt-free schooling I’ve had thanks to amazing financial aid. Not to mention as a science nerd and singer, it’s hard not to appreciate a capella groups named the Lymph Notes and Arrythmias… Looking forward to learning more about the school and spending a couple days in Philly. But for now, I’m off to do some reading. I’ll post an updated reflection to this post tomorrow night after my interview is over.
Thursday 9/20/18 @ 6:30AM: Just got on the bus to head back to DC. What a day! I was a little nervous walking into the admissions office yesterday morning, but Jeff was SO good about making people feel comfortable, relaxed and welcome. Normally Jeff’s interview day has 30 interviewees per session, but my group was smaller (~20) because of Yom Kippur. The number might seem like a lot at first, but when you get to Jeff you realize why they have to squeeze so many people into interviews that run only once per week. The interview day is entirely volunteer-based and student-run, which is something unique you won’t find at other medical schools. (The student admissions officers are there for every Wednesday interview because they want to be there, not to earn money–they’re not paid, so it’s pretty amazing that busy M2s make time in their schedules to run interviews every week).
To give a rundown of the day’s schedule: After you pick up your name tag in the admissions office first thing in the morning, you head to the library cafe and talk to the student admissions officers and other interviewees over coffee and light snacks as a morning icebreaker. More than anything, it’s just a nice time to ask questions, learn about where everyone is coming from and hear more about Jeff. After about half an hour, you head to a meeting room where you meet Dean Callahan, a representative from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, a keynote speaker, and a representative of the financial aid office. After a quick break, each of the student admissions officers give a quick speech about different aspects of the school like extracurricular activities, Philly, why they chose Ieff, and the curriculum (JeffMD is really new–only M1 and M2 students have experienced it so far).
After hearing about Jeff, it’s time to go off with your student interviewer! At Jeff there are two interviews: one student interview before lunch (30 minutes) and one faculty interview in the afternoon (30 minutes to an hour depending on your interviewer’s style). My student interviewer was an M1 and was super friendly and helpful. He basically told me that the student interview serves to get to know you more as a person, and that the student is someone who wants you to come to their school and will advocate for you during admissions. We had a pretty casual conversation about M1, taking a gap year after med school and hobbies. He also asked me “Why Jeff”, mainly to help me practice for the faculty interview. Wish the interview could have been longer since it passed by so quickly, but I enjoyed it. By the end of the interview my nerves were gone completely!
After the student interview, then comes lunch. Which people will rave to you about. All day. (One of the student admissions directors insisted it would be the top 5 lunches you’ve ever had, which is an overstatement but the food was probably still the nicest lunch you’ll ever find along the interview trail based on what I’ve heard about other schools). After lunch, you go on a student tour in small groups and get a glimpse of the campus, lecture halls and library. This is another time to hear a student’s perspective on Jeff, but by this point, you’ve probably heard so much about Jeff that you’re starting to run out of questions. Which is okay! At the end of tour, my student was nice enough to take me to my faculty interview location and make sure I didn’t get lost.
The faculty interview. There really was no reason to feel nervous about this. I had heard tons of rumors of how great Jeff’s interview day was, and my student host told me that she had never heard of a single negative experience with a Jeff interview, but after my faculty interview I can see yet another reason for why Jeff is known for having such a great interview day. Everyone emphasizes that the faculty interview is not to trick you, stump you on ethical questions or pick at your resume, and it’s true! My faculty interviewer only wanted to get to know me as a person, how I came to choose medicine and the path I went on to become who I am today. The interview questions were also surprisingly easy to answer. I’m someone who overthinks open-ended questions pretty easily, so I fumble a lot with things like “Tell me about yourself” or “What do you want us to know about you?” There was none of that though! All of the questions were very straightforward, like asking why my family moved to America, what I like most about my hometown, who I got my singing talents from. I didn’t have to think about my responses, and it felt more like a fun conversation than anything else, so I really enjoyed my faculty interview.
The last ~official~ part of the day was cookie hour, which I was fashionably late to because my interview was a bit farther away from Alumni Hall than everyone else’s and my interview took the whole hour. I was a bit surprised by the number of people there when I walked in, because the room must have been at least 3x as full as it had been during lunch. I guess cookie hour is as good and popular with current students as it’s rumored to be. (I can’t comment on the cookies unfortunately because by the time I was done talking to people, all of the cookies had disappeared 😦 Oh well.) By this point, I had heard so much about Jeff that I was just about out of questions, but it was nice to run into my student interviewer again (I forgot to get his email during the interview), and I also got the chance to thank Dean Callahan and the students for an amazing interview day.
My favorite things about Jeff:
The coolest thing I thought about Jeff is that, as I mentioned before, the interview day is entirely student-run. On one hand, it’s amazing because it shows how much agency and trust that the school puts into its students, and it reflects how much students love the school because they’re willing to make significant time commitments for a weekly, unpaid job on top of all of their other commitments. From another aspect, it gives you a more genuine feel of campus and the Jeff community (it’s one thing to hear from a dean that students are happy and involved. It’s another thing to see it and feel it for yourself). It was the week of a final exam for the M2s, so some of the students were as openly stressed as they were excited for us to be there. Hearing about their study struggles throughout the morning and afternoon made the interview day seem like an honest reflection of day-to-day life on campus rather than a glorified view through rose-colored lens.
Commitment to service: JeffHOPE is one of the largest student-run free clinic programs in the United States, and over half of the student body volunteers with JeffHOPE. (According to the student admissions directors, almost everyone in the student body has volunteered with JeffHOPE at least once by graduation). There’s a lot of opportunities to get involved with service at Jeff, and Jefferson takes a lot of pride in their commitment to service and bettering the community.
Format of JeffMD and integration of case-based learning and clinical skills early on: First of all, Jeff is graded pass/fail for the first two years, which was definitely the minimum requirement for me as I was forming my school list. The new format of JeffMD also sounds really great, because while many schools group subjects by anatomy, embryology, etc., Jeff has a systems-based approach. This means that in each unit, you’ll learn the anatomy, embryology and health conditions of a specific subsystem of the body which makes the knowledge easier to understand in context and apply. To complement the unit lectures, you also have small seminar groups that participate in case-based learning, in which you reinforce the material through a fictional patient case. Jeff students also get very early exposure to clinical skills, and M1s learn how to take vitals and work as part of a healthcare team in their first months of school. M1s and M2s also get ample time practicing their clinical skills with standardized patients (actors educated and paid to play the role as patients), so that from early on they are being trained in how to administer tests, interact with patients, and go through important checklists for diagnosis and treatment. Together, Jeff’s emphasis on service and clinical skills training/early patient interaction ensure that they are training great future clinicians who truly care for their patients.
Prioritization of student wellbeing: From many points during the interview day, it’s easy to see that Jefferson takes student wellbeing very seriously and truly values student feedback. For feedback, to make sure the interview day is enjoyable, each of the interviewees was given a survey with a box for comments and suggestions. Current students also fill out mandatory surveys to evaluate and improve lectures and classes. As for student wellbeing, my M1 interviewer was telling me about how 2-3 of their early lectures were entirely focused on mental health, knowing when to recognize burnout and how to have a healthy life outside of medical school (it must work, since all of the students I talked to have hobbies and activities that they’re engaged in outside of medical school. Some don’t even study at all on weekends).
Plenty of activities: Jefferson has 270 students per incoming medical school class, which is bigger than most but I actually prefer larger classes. Larger classes = more diversity in student body and greater number of options for activities/on-campus involvement. Since all of the mandatory learning is done in small groups, you don’t miss out on much academically by being in a larger class. Meanwhile, you get all the benefits a large class has to offer. Jefferson has a lot more on-campus activities than I’ve seen on other school websites ranging from service-related to dance and singing, and I thought that was an appealing aspect of Jeff as well.
Cost: From the financial aid presentation and what I’ve garnered from current students, it seems like Jefferson might be one of the more expensive medical schools to go to, especially with Philly’s relatively high rent and cost of living.
(Related) Representation of low-income students: Perhaps because Jeff is a more expensive private option, I got the feeling that there is very little representation of lower-income students in the student body, despite Jefferson’s large class size. (There is a lot of diversity in terms of age/non-grad applicants coming from a variety of backgrounds, but not so much in other areas. SKMC reports that out of 260 students in an incoming class, approximately only 22 come from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine). As a (granted, imperfect) comparison, at HMS 1 in 5 students come from families that earn $50,000/year. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but there were a few times I felt a bit alienated during my time on campus (for one, when I asked a couple people about the logistics of doing clinical rotations outside of Philadelphia, they said it wasn’t a problem because you can pay for a hotel for a week or rent an apartment nearby–in addition to paying rent for your apartment back at Jefferson. My student tour guide also told me that Jefferson was significantly more expensive than her other options, but her family was willing to foot the cost because she thought she would be happier there.) Although Jeff was great, my interview day left me wondering whether it would be a good option for low-income students, especially those who come from families that already shoulder a substantial burden of debt. But also then again in that case why am I going into medicine not tech, which would pay off my family’s debt far before I’d even start making money as a doctor
This is all information I gathered from reading about Jefferson and hearing about it from students throughout the interview day. I hear my decision sometime on/around October 15th, so we’ll see what happens! Until then, I’ll have to prepare for a couple more upcoming interviews in Boston and NYC.
Going to take a nap on the bus so that I don’t fall asleep when I get to work today. Also have night class from 5:30 to 7:30PM so I might have to grab a coffee at some point too.😪